A vividly illustrated celebration of summertime that will resonate with readers young and old.

SEASIDE SUMMER

Debut children’s book author Rockvam’s poetic ode to Western Canada, accompanied by illustrations by Bourke (The Scribbles, 2016), captures the fun of a summer spent outdoors.

The poem’s narrator extols the virtues of spending one’s summer riding an “old school bike,” competing in a three-legged race and other sports, spending time in bodies of fresh- and saltwater, fishing or trapping crabs, and enjoying other wonders of nature. Along the way, the book shows families playing card and Monopoly games, and drinking hot chocolate and eating toasted marshmallows to end their nights. In a foreword, Rockvam notes that he spent summers at his grandmother’s British Columbia home in his youth, and his text captures a child’s glee in spending time with friends. Bourke, a Vancouver-based illustrator, lovingly presents the beautiful settings, showing a diverse array of people and highlighting the region’s scenery and wildlife. (One white family features most prominently, but children and adults with a range of skin tones make up the community.) The gouache-and-ink illustrations blend cartoonish characters and realistic animals, pairing them with descriptive rhyming stanzas, such as “Breaching whales, / slimy fish tails. / Oh look! There’s an otter!” The color palette emphasizes the bright blue of the skies and ocean, while warm oranges set off indoor scenes. One particularly lovely image shows shooting stars transforming into shining sea creatures as they fall. Rockvam’s poem—originally written eight years ago, when he was 17—uses accessible vocabulary with consistent rhythms and rhyme schemes across stanzas. Despite the phrases’ simplicity, the words conjure a deep sense of wistfulness. One use of slang to describe the Monopoly game (“it’s never lame”) feels a bit forced, but the rest flows well.

A vividly illustrated celebration of summertime that will resonate with readers young and old.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-5728-6

Page Count: 36

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2019

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs.

WAYSIDE SCHOOL BENEATH THE CLOUD OF DOOM

Rejoice! 25 years later, Wayside School is still in session, and the children in Mrs. Jewls’ 30th-floor classroom haven’t changed a bit.

The surreal yet oddly educational nature of their misadventures hasn’t either. There are out-and-out rib ticklers, such as a spelling lesson featuring made-up words and a determined class effort to collect 1 million nail clippings. Additionally, mean queen Kathy steps through a mirror that turns her weirdly nice and she discovers that she likes it, a four-way friendship survives a dumpster dive after lost homework, and Mrs. Jewls makes sure that a long-threatened “Ultimate Test” allows every student to show off a special talent. Episodic though the 30 new chapters are, there are continuing elements that bind them—even to previous outings, such as the note to an elusive teacher Calvin has been carrying since Sideways Stories From Wayside School (1978) and finally delivers. Add to that plenty of deadpan dialogue (“Arithmetic makes my brain numb,” complains Dameon. “That’s why they’re called ‘numb-ers,’ ” explains D.J.) and a wild storm from the titular cloud that shuffles the school’s contents “like a deck of cards,” and Sachar once again dishes up a confection as scrambled and delicious as lunch lady Miss Mush’s improvised “Rainbow Stew.” Diversity is primarily conveyed in the illustrations.

Ordinary kids in an extraordinary setting: still a recipe for bright achievements and belly laughs. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296538-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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